FRESNO, Calif. --Fresno police say an arson suspect was a mad man on a mission, and the say he beat his family with a crowbar before setting the house on fire.
It happened just before noon near Dakota and West Avenues in central Fresno. Officers say Richard Garcia was acting bizarre moments before flames destroyed the home.
Detectives say Garcia asked his brother-in-law for a cigarette. He gave him one, but Garcia didn't like it and the problem sparked a huge disturbance and fire.
Fresno police say Garcia was on the porch with a knife when officers pulled up to heavy smoke and flames, and say he went on a rampage after bumming a cigarette he didn't like.
"He asked his brother-in-law for a cigarette. He was mad. He thought it was not a good cigarette," Lt. Joe Gomez with the Fresno Police Department explained. "He got angry, he then grabbed a crowbar, attacked both of them and he got a hammer, attacked them with a hammer. He chased them with a knife."
Officers say sister and brother-in-law managed to get away and run to a neighbors. But then they noticed their house was billowing with smoke. Fire investigators say the blaze was suspicious from the start.
"Certainly when we have a dispute like this, you can paint the picture as to what our thoughts might be in regards to a fire starting in a home," Deputy Fresno Fire Chief Rich Cabral explained. "But when we have a dispute between individuals who are living there then our suspicions are raised."
Downed power lines made fighting the fire even more of a challenge. Frantic family members showed up and didn't know if others made it out also made the situation tense.
The suspect refused to give officers any information about what prompted his violent behavior or how he started the fire. Garcia did have cuts, burns and singed hair that was treated at the scene.
"He is not saying much of anything to us," Gomez said.
Garcia is facing charges of assault with a deadly weapon and arson. His sister and brother-in-law were also treated for minor injuries they got while they were hit with the crowbar and hammer.